Abu Dhabi’s ‘red listing’ of flights from UK adds more uncertainty to British residents’ summer plans

Stock London Heathrow Airport UK Britain passengers
For British expats in the UAE, travel to the UK and a return would come with some uncertainties, with Abu Dhabi confirming the red listing. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: UAE residents will once again have the rethink their summer travel plans with Abu Dhabi removing the UK from its ‘green list’. The move requires all travellers flying in from the UK to go through mandatory quarantining.

The UK continues to place the UAE on its ‘red list’, and what Abu Dhabi has done is match that level of requirements. “It has become another hammer blow for UK expats living in the UAE during these challenging times,” said Linus Benjamin Bauer, Managing Director of Dubai-based Bauer Aviation Advisory. “It will impact expats’ motivation and confidence to travel in the near future and that is no good news for airlines in the short-term.”

Difficult to cap

Despite the vaccination efforts, COVID-19 cases in UK are rising at their fastest rate since winter, and it looks like the government may have to extend its lockdown. The UK is currently targeting June 21 to lift all lockdown restrictions.

This makes matters worse for the 150,000-plus British expats in UAE, who typically head home during the summer. There was some cause for optimism last week when Emirates and Etihad relaunched limited services to UK, but with COVID-19 restrictions still in place.

When will it go green again?

Bauer believes the recent establishment of successful air travel corridors between UAE and European countries – and the US in the near future – could “give the governments the courage and conviction to establish a safe air travel corridor” with the UK.

London hit

It’s not just UAE’s airports and airlines that have suffered as a result of the global disruption of air travel. Heathrow, once the busiest airport in the world, stands seventh in aviation data firm OAG’s list of Top 10 busiest airports for May. Dubai International (DXB) has taken the number one spot with nearly 1.9 million seats.

“About eight airlines have come into Heathrow which had never operated before in the last 18 months, and we have a list of others who would like to come in,” said John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, during an CAPA (Centre for Aviation) interview last week. “But they can’t get the slots that they’d like to be able to operate.

“The pull of Heathrow and London is still enormously strong – the challenge is there’s not many places you can fly to with the restraints on travel, both in the UK and around the world.”

Before the pandemic, Heathrow would have roughly 1,400 flights a day with 225,000 passengers traveling through the aviation hub. Now, the airport sees around 400 flights and around 20,000 passengers a day.

This is “very much reduced from where we’d normally be – in passenger terms, we’re down about 90 per cent,” said the airport’s chief, adding that the ones flying at the moment are going on essential travel. “There are very few places that are open for free travel from the UK at the moment.”